Plasma donation: A quick buck or ‘whoring the body’?


    By Clinton Oja

    For years, BYU students have made extra pocket money by donating the yellow liquid called plasma that transports blood cells throughout the human body.

    Aaron Croft, 25, a senior from Chicago, Ill., majoring in Spanish, said he donated plasma for survival.

    “I was trying to support a family,” Croft said. “I did it twice a week for a year and made $200 a month.”

    Croft said that he was usually done faster than other donors.

    “It usually took me 45 minutes,” Croft said. “My veins worked faster than most people.”

    Most people donate twice a week and spend between 45 and 90 minutes per visit while the extraction takes place.

    Richae Armstrong, 20, from Heber City, majoring in athletic training, and a former phlebotomist, said the time it takes to donate varies between donors because different sized people donate different amounts.

    Donors weighing less than 145 lbs. fill a 690 milliliter bottle, those between 145 and 175 lbs. donate 825 milliliters and those above 175 lbs. donate 880 milliliters, Armstrong said.

    As a phlebotomist, Armstrong said she drew the blood from donors.

    “After we find the vein with a 17 gauge needle, a machine pulls the blood out and separates the cells from the plasma,” she said. “The process repeats itself until the desired amount of plasma has been collected, while the blood cells return to the donors body.”

    Josh Krum from Layton, 23, a senior at UVSC, majoring in business management, said his roommates got him interested in donating plasma, and he decided to give it a try.

    “I donated plasma three times,” Krum said. “I didn”t feel good physically after donating.”

    Croft said that it didn”t make him feel ill but it left some marks on his forearms.

    Some donors complain that donating ruins the veins. Armstrong said the biggest physical risk is the amount of scar tissue build up that donors get in their arms.

    “People get so much scar tissue,” Armstrong said. “It is really sick, trying to push a needle into an arm through scar tissue.”

    The plasma that is donated is used for research purposes, such as studying the effects of smallpox.

    “Some people do it for the cause, but most just do it for the money,” Armstrong said.

    Those that donate for smallpox get paid $50 for each donation by most donor centers, while donating for other research such as rabies make between $25 and $35 per visit, Armstrong said.

    Adam Youngberg, 21, from Sandy, majoring in computer science said he doesn”t think that donating plasma is a big deal.

    “If they pay you for it and they allow you to do it several times a week, it doesn”t seem like it is that bad,” he said. “Your body regenerates the plasma anyway.”

    Youngberg wanted to donate plasma but has not been able to because he served a two-year mission to Europe for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, which makes him ineligible.

    Youngberg also said that his mother is against him donating plasma.

    “She says that donating plasma is like whoring your body,” Youngberg said. “She thinks it is immoral.”

    Ashley Ram, a 23 year-old senior from Hercules, Calif., studying business management, said he doesn”t donate because of the size of the needles.

    Ram said a friend of his was doing it and was making a lot of money. With the intentions of making some money for his dating fund, he decided it was worth it.

    “I only went to donate one time,” Ram said. “I saw the needle and I was like, daaaang.”

    Ram said he didn”t want to waste his time so he decided to get it over with and made $50 on his first and only experience donating plasma.

    Ram said one of the drawbacks to donating is that it takes longer the first time.

    “They go through all this paper-work to make sure that your blood is good,” Ram said.

    Ram said that during his freshman year at BYU, everybody was donating plasma.

    “If you were low on money, you donated plasma,” he said.

    Some students who have donated in the past said the best part is that they can get paid for just sitting there.

    “I wanted to do it because I can make money just sitting there,” Youngberg said. “It”s like free money. It”s the ideal job.”

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